The Current Policy

So why has the FDA not acted?

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent consumer deception by clarifying that a food label is misleading if it omits significant “material” information. In 1992 the FDA issued a policy statement that defined “material” as the ability to be sensed by taste, smell, or other senses. The FDA determined that genetically modified foods were “substantially equivalent” to conventionally produced foods, so there was no material difference – and no labeling was required. After almost 20 years, this policy is still in effect today.

For example, a salmon that is genetically modified to produce hormones throughout the year is not, according to the FDA, materially different from a non-genetically modified salmon because it does not taste, smell or feel different. And without a label to tell us differently, when eating salmon, we would not know if what we were consuming had been genetically altered.

Note: In December 2012, the FDA released an Environmental Assessment on Aquabounty’s GMO salmon, an action widely viewed as confirmation of upcoming approval. 

People today want more information than ever. Yet, this decade’s old and out of touch FDA policy prevents us from knowing about our food.

About the Petition to the Food and Drug Administration

A legal petition was filed in September 2011 by the Center for Food Safety, demanding that the FDA require mandatory federal labeling of GMO foods. Click here to see a copy of the petition.

The petition calls for the FDA to:

  • Issue new regulations requiring labeling of all foods produced using genetic modification.
  • Change the way it defines “material” to a change in food at the atomic, molecular or genetic level that a significant share of consumers would find relevant to their purchasing decisions; and/or
  • Issue new regulations requiring labeling of all transgenic food because it always results in novel DNA and proteins never before present in the foods, and which consumers would not expect.

On March 27th, 2012, 180 days after the petition was filed, over 1 million Americans had signed in support of labeling genetically modified foods.  To date, the FDA petition has received over 1.4 million signatures.

To add your name to the FDA petition, and tell your members of Congress to support labeling, click here.

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